Tuesday, June 24, 2008


In 2007, Ben Harper released his 8th album, Lifeline. Though the album artist is technically Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, like so many other bands, it might as well be called Ben Harper and the Generic Backup Band. Make no mistake about it, this is Ben Harper's vision, and no one else's.

The California native grew up on a steady diet of blues music, earning his fist big break by going on tour with the legendary Taj Mahal. Harper learned well under Mahal's tutelage, becoming an accomplished guitar player and vocalist. He released his first album, Welcome to the Cruel World, in 1994. His musical style and vocal range are very similar to Eric Clapton. Harper has found much success in Europe and South America, particularly Brasil, where his collaboration with Vanessa de Mata, "Bea Sorte/Good Luck" spent several weeks on top of the Brasil Top 100 tracks.

Lifeline was recorded on analog in one week in a studio in Paris. The Album garnered a 73 on Metacritic. It's 11 tracks, and 40.8 minutes long. It's a mellow alternative rock album with definite blues roots. It's not rigidly attached to that formula though, "Needed You Tonight" definitely is more of a gospel song than anything, and "Paris Sunrise #7" is a gorgeous acoustic instrumental. The lyrics are well thought out, and work well into the framework of the songs.

There are times where the short recording time does stand out, as there are some minor mastering issues, but nothing compared to my last review. If anything, the slight looseness on the album enhances the blues feel, making it seem almost more personal, like he's playing from a seat across the living room from you. However, while it enhances the slower songs, the more upbeat tracks do suffer slightly from it. Another factor of the recording blitz is the strain it puts on vocalists. On the final, title track, Harper's voice has lost significant range and tone. But these issues are really nothing major, just me nitpicking.

My favorite songs on the album are "Fight Outta You", "Younger Than Today", "Heart of Matters", and "Paris Sunrise #7".

You should give the album a listen, regardless of your taste in music. If you're a fan of blues music, like Eric Clapton, B.B. King, or Taj Mahal, or a fan of Soft Rock, like Jack Johnson, America, or The Eagles, it's certainly worth it to buy this album. I'm giving it an 8/10.

1 comment:

James said...

Nice review. I haven't given it a proper listen yet, so I can't really agree or disagree with your opinions.

Looking forward to seeing whether it floats my boat so to speak.